European airports welcome ICAO’s long-term net zero goal

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Airports Council International (ACI) Europe has welcomed the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO’s) Long Term Aspirational Goal for global aviation to reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. The announcement follows a two-week long political negotiations aligning international aviation’s climate objective with the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement – as well with the net zero pledge made by the aviation industry last year.

Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe Director General commented: “ICAO’s global commitment to aviation’s net zero future is a key milestone for the industry for the climate. The industry’s ambition is now finally being met at the political level globally. We now need ICAO to urgently work on concrete implementation  policies and actions – guiding States across the World towards delivery and supporting the industry in the transition.”

More than 270 airports in ACI Europe’s network have already individually committed to the net zero 2050 pledge, representing 75.5% of European air passenger traffic (as per 2019 traffic levels) with nearly 50% of airports who now have even more ambitious net zero targets in their sights.  In addition airports have been delivering tangible CO2 reductions for more than a decade through the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, which launched in 2009. While the initiative has expanded beyond Europe and is now adopted by airports around the world, it also demonstrates how decarbonisation happens at varying speeds across world regions. As such climate policy framework needs to take into account regional differences in progression.

At the Euorpe level, the EU institutions are working to accelerate the implementation of the European Green Deal, including proposals on how to reach -55% CO2 emissions by 2030 through the Fit for 55 regulatory package. The European aviation eco-system supports this ambition and is working with the institutions on necessary adjustments to the files.

 

ACI Europe joins alliance for Zero-Emission Aviation

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The end of September saw ACI Europe join the Alliance for Zero-Emission Aviation (AZEA), a voluntary initiative led by the European Commission bringing aviation stakeholders together to prepare Europe for hydrogen and electric flight.

The Alliance will build on the findings of the industry-led Destination 2050 roadmap as regards the emission reduction potential of alternative propulsion technologies, notably hydrogen and electric powered aircraft. It aims to leverage the investments and technological developments pursued through EU aviation research programmes, including Clean Aviation and the SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking and coordinate efforts across the aviation eco-system. In addition, AZEA plans to address the regulatory and financial challenges involved so as to pave the way for the next generation of sustainable aircraft to come to market as commercially viable products.

Commenting on the the association’s decision to join the alliance, Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe, said: “Europe’s airports have long been at the forefront of climate mitigation efforts, including through the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, the ACI Europe Net Zero pledge and the Destination 2050 alliance. Nonetheless, emissions from flights remain the biggest chunk of aviation’s carbon footprint and with today’s announcement we show our unwavering commitment to working together with industry partners to address it. Supporting the development and deployment of alternative propulsion technologies is a natural continuation of our work to limit the industry’s impact on the climate.”

By joining forces with AZEA’s wide range of partners ACI Europe will further boost the alliance’s knowledge base in terms of airport infrastructure and will support the planning and readiness of European airports for the major changes new technologies will trigger.

A dedicated taskforce spearheaded by ACI Europe and comprising AENA, Aeroporti di Roma, Brussels Airport, Dublin Airports Authority, Geneva Airport, Groupe ADP, Munich Airport, Royal Schiphol Group, SEA Milan Airports and Swedavia will drive the airport industry’s contribution to the alliance under the supervision of the association’s Environmental Strategy Committee.

Jankovec added: “We believe that there is a strong business case behind developing environmentally sustainable aircraft. Industry preparedness and in particular infrastructure readiness will be crucial in securing its market viability and success. Airport infrastructure projects are developed to last decades, so it is of fundamental importance that the development of hydrogen and electric powered aircraft technologies goes hand-in-hand with the adaptation and development of the necessary airport infrastructure. We will be there to secure that crucial part of the process.”

European airports report exponential passenger growth

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European airports handled an additional 660 million passengers in the first half of 2022, according to Airports Council International (ACI) Europe’s latest air traffic report.

Passenger traffic in the European airport network jumped by +247% in H1 2022 compared to the same period last year – resulting in airports across the continent handling an additional 660 million passengers.

“These numbers speak for themselves,” said Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe. “If COVID-19 caused an unprecedented collapse in passenger traffic for Europe’s airports, the rebound we have experienced this spring – especially in the EU+ market – is equally extraordinary. The fact that volumes across the continent still remained -28.3% below pre-pandemic levels for the first half of the year should not eclipse the sheer and unprecedented unleashing of pent-up demand that has occurred since March.”

According to the association, the increase was predominantly driven by international traffic (+381.2%) rather than domestic traffic (88.5%). It was also very much concentrated in Q2, which followed the easing as of March of the Omnicron-related restrictions for travel within Europe as well as for an increasing number of external markets.

The month of June was the closest so far to full passenger traffic recovery with the month closing at -17.4% against pre-pandemic (June 2019) levels. This marked the strongest monthly performance since pre-pandemic reporting  in February 2020 with recovery continued to be driven by leisure and VFR demand, as evidenced from the results achieved by airports in countries relying heavily on tourism.

Airports in Greece (a holiday hotspot) and Luxembourg were the only ones to fully recover their pre-pandemic passenger traffic volumes in June. Meanwhile airports in Portugal came close to a full recovery, as did hubs in Lithuania and Norway.

At the other end of the spectrum, airports in Slovenia, Finland, Bulgaria, Czechia and Latvia struggled to recover more dynamically, notably due to the impact of the war in Ukraine and related international sanctions on Russia. Among the largest EU+ markets, airports in Spain and Italy posted the best results, followed by airports in France, the UK and and Germany.

The top five European airports (-17%) and large air transport hubs kept under performing smaller and regional airport hubs (-6.6%) in June, when compared to pre-pandemic (2019) passenger traffic levels. This is most likely due to travel restrictions on selected Asian market – in particular China.

There was also good news from a number of regional airports serving popular tourism destinations and/ or relying on low-fare carriers, as they exceeded pre-pandemic (2019) traffic levels in June, including: Santorini (+72.5%), Tirana (+59.3%), Zadar (+39. 1%), Funchal (+27.9%), Mykonos (+12.9%), Kauna (+8.1%), Menorca (+6.5%), Billund (+5.5%), Olbia (+4.7%) and Bergamo (+1.1%).

In the cargo sector, freight traffic across Europe made limited gains in H1 at -0.8% compared to the same period last year. This reflects the wider impact of the war in Ukraine on supply chains, which sent freight traffic on a downward trend as of last February – with the month of June closing at -4.5%.

Airports welcome EC proposal to reinstate standard slot usage rules

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On behalf of its airport members, Airports Council International (ACI) Europe has welcomed the European Commission’s proposal to return to normal airport slot usage rules for the upcoming Winter 22/23 season. The trade association is now calling on the EU Council and the European Parliament to support this proposal and expedite its approval.

The reinstated rules mean airlines will be required to use airport slots they have been allocated for 80% of the time in order to keep them during the following corresponding season. According to ACI Europe this will put an end to successive usage alleviation measures that have been in place since Spring 2020.

“Airports understood and accepted the need for slot waivers for airlines during the pandemic,” said Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s DG. “However, there is no question these waivers also came with forgone connectivity and forgone revenues for airports.”

The return to the 80:20 slot usage rule reflects the need to shift from protecting the airport slot portfolios of incumbent airlines to promoting an effective use of airport capacity and the restoration of Europe’s vital air connectivity – now that COVID-19 travel restrictions have been largely eased or even abolished both within Europe and in most other world regions.

Returning to the normal slot is consistent with the dynamic air traffic recovery underway and says Jankovec, “will give airlines the flexibility and protection they need when faced with travel restriction or the impact of the war on specific markets is the right thing to do now that air traffic is finally recovering.”

While the rest of Europe looks to return to normal airport slot usage rules, earlier this month the UK Government offered airlines a “slot amnesty” allowing them to voluntarily return slots for the Summer 2022 season without prejudicing their future allotments. Airlines were given until Friday 8 July to return their slots, a move which allows them to more realistically align their schedules without the fear of losing their coveted slots, by cancelling flights well ahead of their departure dates to enable both passengers and stakeholders to make alternative plans.

Airport leaders address open architecture for security screening technology

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Airports and industry stakeholders, including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the European Organisation for Security (EOS), Airports Council International (ACI) Europe and Avinor, have agreed in principle to open architecture for security screening technology throughout Europe.

Around the globe, transportation security equipment is moving towards a concept of open architecture – a technological framework that facilitates collaboration, shared resources and an outcome in which common goals are achieved. Open architecture principles will facilitate uniform standards and allow for a more agile response to emerging threats by focusing on open data formats, standard interfaces and the establishment of an operationally viable and cyber-secure approach to security systems.

“Technology and innovation within transportation security is evolving at a rapid pace and open architecture promises to improve how all transportation security agencies share data, integrate emerging technology at speed, remain cyber resilient and advance our mission,” said TSA Administrator, David Pekoske. “We remain committed to innovation and working collaboratively with our partners to increase the security baseline and improve the travelling experience.”

Meanwhile, ACI Europe’s DG, Olivier Jankovec, agreed that the collaboration of stakeholders has “the potential to unlock future applications, partnerships and solutions.”

In recent months, TSA has been working in collaboration with its international partners and stakeholders to update the Open Architecture for Airport Security Systems document, initially published in July 2020. To ensure the objectives and benefits set out in the document could be achieved, ACI Europe partnered with EOS to establish a structure where stakeholders can collaborate to develop  the necessary technical recommendations and address questions on key areas, including liability and the protection of intellectual property.

In line with this latest collaboration, stakeholders are actively working to implement open architecture principles into the security screening system, focusing on open data formats such as Digital Imaging and Communications in Security (DICOS), standardised interfaces and establishing an operationally viable and cyber-secure approach to accessible property screening, on-person screening and identity verification.

La Palma and Torino celebrate joint win at ACI Europe awards

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La Palma Airport in Spain and Torino Airport in Italy were named as joint winners in the ‘Under 5 million passengers category’ at this year’s Airports Council International (ACI) Europe’s Best Airport Awards.

The awards were announced at the 32nd ACI Europe Annual Congress and General Assembly, which took place in Rome from 22-24 June. The awards recognise excellence and outstanding achievement across the entire portfolio of airport activities, including eco-innovation, human resources excellence and digital transformation. The judging panel comprised representatives from the European Commission, Eurocontrol, SESAR Joint Undertaking, the International Transport Forum and ECAC.

La Palma Airport was highlighted for its resilience not only during COVID-19 crisis but also during the Cumbre Veja volcanic eruptions, while Torino Airport was recognised for its significant recovery post-pandemic as well as its work on innovation and sustainability.

In the ‘5-10 million passengers’ category Valencia Airport took the win with the jury underlining the significant operations put in place to cope with the pandemic, including cargo and medical flights. The airport is also a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) pioneer and is a test airport for Spanish airport operator Aena’s collaboration with Air bp. The airport received praise for its continued investment in quality of service improvements such as a new automatic border control system.

Eindhoven Airport was also highly commended in this category.

 

In the ’10-25 million passenger’ category Porto Airport came out on top, while Vienna Airport was named the winner of the ’25-40 million passenger’ category and Rome Fiumicino Airport won the ‘over 40 million passenger’ category. While London City was awarded the Digital Transformation Award, another UK hub, Bristol Airport, was awarded the eco-innovation award alongside Turking airport – iGA Istanbul Grand Airport. The latter also received this year’s Human Resources Excellence Award.

David Feldman, Managing Partner at Exambela Consulting was declared ACI Europe’s World Business Partner thanks to his active participation in committees, sharing of best practices and experience, research and special initiatives. Feldman was also tasked with chairing the conference session’s at this year’s ACI Europe Regional Airports Conference, which took place in Palermo, Sicily at the end of February.

In addition, a Special Recognition Award was given to Emanuel Fleuti, Head of Sustainability and Environment at Zurich Airport for his “outstanding leadership in advancing Airport Carbon Accreditation and airport sustainability.”

 

Header image: Joint winners – representatives from Torino Airport and La Palma Airport received their Best Airport Award from ACI Europe’s DG, Olivier Jankovec. 

La Palma Airport in Spain and Torino Airport in Italy were named as joint winners in the ‘Under 5 million passengers category’ at this year’s Airports Council International (ACI) Europe’s Best Airport Awards.

The awards were announced at the 32nd ACI Europe Annual Congress and General Assembly, which took place in Rome from 22-24 June. The awards recognise excellence and outstanding achievement across the entire portfolio of airport activities, including eco-innovation, human resources excellence and digital transformation. The judging panel comprised representatives from the European Commission, Eurocontrol, SESAR Joint Undertaking, the International Transport Forum and ECAC.

La Palma Airport was highlighted for its resilience not only during COVID-19 crisis but also during the Cumbre Veja volcanic eruptions, while Torino Airport was recognised for its significant recovery post-pandemic as well as its work on innovation and sustainability.

In the ‘5-10 million passengers’ category Valencia Airport took the win with the jury underlining the significant operations put in place to cope with the pandemic, including cargo and medical flights. The airport is also a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) pioneer and is a test airport for Spanish airport operator Aena’s collaboration with Air bp. The airport received praise for its continued investment in quality of service improvements such as a new automatic border control system.

Eindhoven Airport was also highly commended in this category.

 

In the ’10-25 million passenger’ category Porto Airport came out on top, while Vienna Airport was named the winner of the ’25-40 million passenger’ category and Rome Fiumicino Airport won the ‘over 40 million passenger’ category. While London City was awarded the Digital Transformation Award, another UK hub, Bristol Airport, was awarded the eco-innovation award alongside Turking airport – iGA Istanbul Grand Airport. The latter also received this year’s Human Resources Excellence Award.

David Feldman, Managing Partner at Exambela Consulting was declared ACI Europe’s World Business Partner thanks to his active participation in committees, sharing of best practices and experience, research and special initiatives. Feldman was also tasked with chairing the conference session’s at this year’s ACI Europe Regional Airports Conference, which took place in Palermo, Sicily at the end of February.

In addition, a Special Recognition Award was given to Emanuel Fleuti, Head of Sustainability and Environment at Zurich Airport for his “outstanding leadership in advancing Airport Carbon Accreditation and airport sustainability.”

 

Header image: Joint winners – representatives from Torino Airport and La Palma Airport received their Best Airport Award from ACI Europe’s DG, Olivier Jankovec. 

London City scoops multiple awards

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London City Airport has been celebrating multiple wins over the last couple of weeks having been named by the Daily Telegraph as the best airport in the UK and scooping  airports Council International (ACI) Europe’s Best Digital Transformation Award at the 32nd ACI Europe annual congress in Rome on 23 June.

ACI’s award was given in recognition of the design, delivery and operational success of the pioneering Digital Air Traffic Control Tower, which has been fully operational at London City since January 2021. London City’s digital tower has 14 high-definition cameras and sensors mounted on a landside mast at the airport that provide a 360-degree view. This is all fed back via super-fast fibre connections to a NATS control room centre in Swanwick.

The swift deployment of the project and the close collaboration between the airport, NATS, SAAB, the CAA and engagement with airline and local community stakeholders were all contributing factors to the London City hub receiving its award from ACI Europe.

Commenting on the accolade London City Airport’s COO, Alison FirzGerald said: “This project goes back to 2016 and I want to pay tribute to everyone involved in getting it approved by our regulators, as well as built, operationally ready and prepared for a busy summer ahead.

“This recognition also speaks to the strength of the relationship we have built with NATS over the years, and I am hopeful that there is even more we can achieve together, helping us both to lead the way in making our industry safer, more sustainable and cutting edge.”

Serving the UK capital, London City is set to connect to 36 destinations across the UK and Europe. The airport is fully staffed for the summer period.

Masks are a thing of the past for Europe’s airports

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The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have updated their Aviation Health Safety Protocol to advise that wear mask wearing is no longer mandatory on public transport, this also needs to be the case at airports and on-board aircraft.

The Aviation Health Safety Protocol, advises European States and industry on the progressive de-escalation of protective measures aimed at limiting the risk of COVID-19 infection during air travel. Reflecting the evolution of the epidemiological situation and risks  as well as the latest scientific evidence, the updated guidance also removes the requirement to ensure physical distancing within terminals and other airport areas. In addition, it removes access restrictions to airport terminals, therefore allowing passengers and all other visitors to enter and use the range of services there.

Where health checks and testing requirements remain in place, the guidance advises that States should implement ‘One Stop’ arrangements to avoid duplication between departure, transit and arrival processes.

Airports Council International (ACI) Europe’s Director General, Olivier Jankovec, welcomed the updated guidance saying: “Over the past two years, the EASA-ECDC Aviation Health Safety Protocol has been essential to ensure risk-based and uniform COVID-19 protective measures for air travel across Europe. This remains the case with today’s update, with guidelines that continue to be effective, proportionate, and practical – and which reflect the fact that an increasing number of States no longer mandate wearing face masks nor social distancing for travel.”

He also noted that with the summer season set to be a busy one, the new guidance marks another step in the safe recovery of European aviation and it will make the travel experience much more pleasant, while keeping passengers and staff safe.

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA’s) Director General, Willie Walsh commented that “Travellers can look forward to freedom of choice on whether to wear a mask. And they can travel with confidence knowing that many features of the aircraft cabin, such as high frequency air exchange and high efficiency filters, make it one of the safest indoor environments.”

Ground handlers and airports unite to address complex operational challenges

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The Airport Services Association (ASA) and Airports Council International (ACI) Europe have issued a joint statement addressing the complex operational issues faced by ground handlers and airports alike as we enter what the industry is forecasting will be a busy summer travel season.

While ASA’s Managing Director, Fabio Gamba, and ACI Europe’s Director General, Olivier Jankovec, welcome the return of air travel after the devastating impact of COVID-19 on their respective industries, they agreed that the recovery of passenger traffic has accelerated sharply and suddenly. “While still remaining below pre-pandemic (2019) levels, passenger traffic has also become much more concentrated over peak periods,” their statement read. “In fact, at many airports traffic peaks are at, or higher than, pre-pandemic levels.

Coping with this sudden increase in air traffic has proved challenging for airports and their operational partners, in particular ground handlers. It has resulted in an increase in flight delays and cancellations, as well as a degraded passenger experience at many airports, as key processes including check-in, security screening and baggage delivery involve longer waiting times.

The main underlying reason for these disruptions has been the difficulty to scale up staffing to the levels required to accommodate the surge in passenger traffic.

Outlining the reasons for the staff crunch, the two organisations said the cause is: Airports and ground handlers have been forced to lay off staff due to the collapse in air traffic in 2020 and 2021. “The fact that airports and ground handlers received far less financial aid than airlines and that such aid came rather late was a significant contributing factor to their weakened operational capabilities.”

The extremely tight labour market across Europe was another contributing factor. “The fact that security and ground handling jobs have for many years stood at the lower end of the pay scales and also involve working in shifts seven days a week is a clear handicap in attracting people in the current inflationary environment.”

In the case of ground handling in particular, years of liberalisation triggered by the EU Ground Handling Directive, have resulted in a downward spiral that has now become both socially and operationally unsustainable. If low wages and compromised service quality were already a concern pre-pandemic, they are now coming to the fore.

Finally the training and security clearance requirements have also made it impossible to quickly adapt and deploy additional staff. It can take up to 16 weeks between staff recruitment and deployment.

While both associations that in the short-term there is no quick and easy fix to the staffing issues, they highlighted that disruptions could be reduced by: Faster security clearance from competent authorities for airport and ground handling staff; Airlines adapting their schedules to reduce traffic peaks and returning unused slots as early as possible; Effective and even closer dialogue and cooperation between all partners involved.

“In the medium-term, EU rules on ground handling need to be reconsidered with a renewed focus on resilience. It is crucial that no further liberalisation of ground handling is pursued without a robust legal package aimed at guaranteeing a minimum quality of service and the promotion and recognition of the ground handling workers’ skills through, for instance the creation of widely recognised training passports. Also, the ability to set an upper limit on the number of ground handling suppliers based on the size of the market (or airport) would go a long way in addressing both social and operational shortcomings,” the statement concluded.

RACE2022: Catania named 200th airport to engage in the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme

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The European airport industry marked a milestone during ACI Europe’s 13th Regional Airport Conference and Exhibition taking place in Palermo this week with more than 200 airports now engaged in climate action with the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme.

At the latest count, 204 European airports were engage in climate action at one of the six available certification levels. Catania Fontanarossa was named the 200th airport to be accredited during the conference on Tuesday 29 March having achieved Level 2. Meanwhile, Shannon, Jersey and Newcastle airports were all accredited at Level 1 and Brussels South Charleroi at Level 2.

Since launching in 2009, the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme has enjoyed robust growth with European hubs topping the ranking of the highest number of airports at the more advanced levels of accreditation. Speaking at ACI Europe’s conference, Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe’s Director General stated that “today’s milestone leaves no doubt that European airports are true leaders in decarbonisation, committed to addressing their emissions through thick and thin.”

Underlining that the climate emergency remains a top priority for airports despite the other crises on the continent, Clara de La Torre, Deputy Director General, DG Climate Action, European Commission commented: “Europe’s airports’ persistence and exemplary commitment to climate action is all the more noteworthy as the challenges we face right now affect their day-to-day operation and their future deeply.”

Jankovec added: “The past two years have been particularly daunting for our industry and it would have been easy to “postpone” climate action until better times came around. Instead, what we have witnessed is a landslide engagement in Airport Carbon Accreditation, both in terms of new accreditations and upgrades to the most stringent levels of carbon management.”

He concluded that today’s milestone “leaves no doubt that European airports are true leaders in decarbonisation, committed to addressing their emissions through thick and thin.”